Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Yarra Valley Weekend Away

Hey hey! How was everyone's weekends?  We had a great one!  We had a weekend away in the Yarra Valley, where we spent a lovely two nights with a group of friends celebrating Sandra's birthday. YAY!

Wine, snacks, cupcakes, fireplace

You may remember that earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Yarra Valley, hosted by Yarra Ranges Regional Marketing.  Whilst we had a great time visiting different cider and beer breweries, and enjoyed some great restaurants, the highlight of the trip was definitely the gorgeous accommodation, Barolo Lodge.  I absolutely loved the it, and after we came home I blabbed on about it endlessly to all our friends: "Guys, there's a hot tub!", "There was a private chef!", "He made this incredible cheddar cheese mash!"

I was so pleased that we were able to organise another trip there last weekend, on our own coin, to share the experience with seven of our friends!  Unlike my other recent weekends away, this one was more about relaxation and chilling out, rather than busily trying to see a whole bunch of different sites.  Although we did make a couple of little expeditions the next day, this weekend was all about the hot tub and Eurovision!

All nine of us who went on the trip are big food lovers, (which I'm sure will come as a huge shock), so I did some baking beforehand, and even brought up ingredients and utensils so I could make breakfast.

I made a big batch of red velvet cupcakes to share, baking them at home and icing them at the cabin.  I love how bright red the batter is, just like thick ketchup!

Red velvet batter
Here they are, all baked and ready!

Rather than the flour-based icing I used the first time, I made a vanilla-bean cream cheese icing.  (It's this recipe, from Allrecipes, replacing the vanilla extract with the beans from a vanilla pod).  The comments on the recipe said it was much less sweet than store-bought American cream cheese icing, and that you can really taste the cream cheese - perfect for me!  It was so yum! And just quietly, I think people prefer the icing to the cake itself!

Red velvet cupcake

Vanilla bean cream cheese icing

I slightly (ok, vastly) overestimated the amount of icing I'd need, oops! But we didn't have any problem finding other things to eat it with!

Due to varying work schedules, people were arriving at different times on the Friday night (including our one beloved Canberran who flew in for the occasion and got there at around 10:30!), so rather than organising anything special, we just ordered in pizza from around the corner.

Pizza, garlic bread - classy

And of course, any weekend away requires SNACKS! We may have gone a little overboard...
Snacks

We had a big breakfast the next morning: I baked scones, and my friend Alaina brought her amazing chocolate chip pumpkin bread.

Breakfast

You'll notice the takeaway coffees in the above photo - we sent the boys on a coffee run to Essenza, the lovely cafe owned by the same owners of Barolo Lodge!

Pumpkin Bread

Dee-licious pumpkin bread. This was something that goes very, very well with cream cheese icing!

And here are my scones!
Scones

After many, many different attempts, I've finally cracked what I think is the perfect scone, by mixing up a few recipes and tips from different sources.  I'll be sharing the recipe with you all soon!

Assembled scone
(And yes, that is a piece of a Burch & Purchese Salted Caramel Chocolate Gold Bar sitting next to the scone - part of a fab birthday present from the lovely Adrian!)

So, I did say we made a couple of little excursions - one was to visit Napoleone & Co Cider / Punt Road Wines for a tasting.  (You can read about my previous visit here, and their "Garden of Eden" pork spit roast lunch here).

Punt Road Wines / Napoleone & Co Cider

I'd been in Twitter communications with Napoleone & Co the week before, and they kindly held back a bottle of their methode traditionnelle pear cider for us to taste.  This is my favourite of all their ciders, and won't be available for the next couple of weeks - boo!  But we made do by buying some wines and a few bottles of their normal pear cider.

While we were there, I had a chat with one of the ladies who works at the Cellar Door, and she happens to read my blog, and has done so for ages, since the Sarah Discovers How to Eat days.  (Wow, I didn't think anyone even remembered that any more!)  Hi Dani! It was really nice to meet you!

We then went to the Yarra Valley Dairy, for a bite to eat. (You can read about my previous visit, here).
Yarra Valley Dairy cheese platter
The $27 cheese platters are very generous, and sharing three platters between nine of us was definitely enough for a light lunch. I love their marinated feta and the goats pyramid!

I thought the views from our table over the dairy were rather beautiful too.
View from Yarra Valley Dairy

Dinner that night was at the accommodation too - we decided to splash out on the personal chef experience.  (I say "splash out", but at $60 a head for two courses and cheese, I think it's very well priced!)  Owners David and Gianpaolo arrived about an hour before dinner to cook, to light the fireplace and to set the table.  How pretty does the table look!

The Dinner Table

I poured some kir royales to get started, and then it was time to eat!
Kir Royales


Entree
Oven roasted vine tomatoes, fior di latte (buffalo mozzarella), olivetto olives, basil oil
Served with organic Fruition sourdough

Main
Proscuitto wrapped Lilydale chicken, spinach and pine nut with cheddar cheese mashed potato and butter green beans

Formaggio
Yarra Valley cheese selection
Vintage aged cheddar, blue, brie


Dinner

You'll see that the menu was the same as last time, which was a good thing - I actually requested the same dishes because we enjoyed them so much!  I felt like there was something for all of us here - we all loved the fior di latte, and they were really generous with it (swoon!), my friend Kristine loves meat-wrapped-in-meat (her words, not mine!), and we had a couple of non-olive eaters who donated their olives to the olive lovers on the table. Win win!  One of our friends who doesn't generally like tomatoes, really liked the sweet roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine!

Sandra had been eyeing the plates to see who'd gotten the biggest portion of cheddar cheese mash, and we all had a giggle (and gave a little round of applause) when Chef Gianpaolo came out and surprised us with an extra bowl of cheddar cheese mash just for her.  Cheesy carby goodness for the win!

Needless to say, we were all stuffed after that massive meal - thank goodness we didn't have far to go!  It was many hours later - hours filled with Eurovision, hot tubs, wine, cider and charades - that we could even attempt to eat the birthday cake.

Dense chocolate loaf cake
Nigella's dense chocolate loaf cake, from How to be a Domestic Goddess, is a plain-looking cake, and ordinarily on a special occasion I'd go for something a bit fancier, with layers and icing, but it's Sandra's favourite.  It's actually perfect for travelling, because it's easy to make, and it improves over time, so you can make it a good few days in advance.  I think it's actually my most often-baked Nigella chocolate cake! (And that says a lot, hehe).  Being damp and sticky like gingerbread, we found that it goes beautifully with cream cheese icing!

Cake
Happy Birthday Sandra!  And a big thank-you to all of our friends for joining in the fun, for being generous with their time (and snacks!), and for helping to do the rounds and rounds of dishes we managed to accumulate.  It was such fun!

What are your favourite destinations for weekends away with friends?

12 comments:

Sophie said...

You guys looked like you had a blast (and lots of good food too!) Good to hear the weather behaved well enough in the end.

I love the Mornington Peninsula for weekends, but I'd prefer to take a whole week off an go travelling interstate instead. Eden, Sydney, even Canberra!

Winston said...

AWESOME getaway, you guys!! I remember reading Adrian's tweet about the jacuzzi and booze and got so jealous cuz it was freeeezing here in Melb that weekend! And yum... Your RV cupcakes look amazing. Gotta try it with vanilla bean pods as well. Cheers to more weekend getaways to come! =]

Michelle Chin said...

Pumpkin bread and cream cheese. awesome. :D

Unknown said...

Hey Sarah - thanks for the mention!! The Red velvet cupcakes look amazing, never made them but I will put them on my to do list. Moving into a new home this weekend so have lots of new kitchen items to test out. I post my food photos on facebook will have to figure out a way to share them with you.
Thanks for dropping in to Punt Road - see you next time.

catty said...

i LOVE getting away in the winter to the wine region. Nothing like sipping wine in front of a fireplace! And those scones look delicious!

Sarah said...

Sophie - Thank-you for your comment! I thought the rain would be worse, but luckily it wasn't too bad. I love the MP too (a couple of friends have holiday houses there!). I like Canberra too, hehe - one of my good friends lives there and we often go up to visit him. Lots of good restaurants there!

@Winston - Thanks so much! Yup, the jacuzzi was soooo perfect in the cold weather!

Michelle - Such a great combination! I have to make it myself one day :)

Unknown - No worries! Was lovely to meet you. Happy cooking in the new kitchen and good luck for the move! :)

Catty - Thank-you so much! Winter getaways are the best! :)

xox Sarah

Agnes said...

Happy birthday to Sandra! What an awesome weekend away - now I'm all inspired. :D

Sarah said...

Agnes - Thanks! Hope you manage to find some time to have a nice getaway soon! :)

Nic@diningwithastud said...

What an awesome getaway feast !

Sarah said...

Nic - Thank-you! We've been feeling the after-effects this week though, hehehe :)

Iron Chef Shellie said...

nawww Happy Birthday to Sandra!
mmmm ketchup cucpakes :P

Sarah said...

Michèle - Thanks! I bet there's already a ketchup-variant of cupcake out there, hehe!